Mar 14, 2013

Pre-K Scholarships Mandate Curriculum, Aid Unionization & Decrease Choice

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The DFL legislature is seeking to greatly expand the funding for early childhood scholarships to as much as 1750% over current levels.  The Republicans are supportive of the concept of school choice as is Education Liberty Watch.  However, both sides need to be aware of the many pitfalls with these bills.  The biggest concern is that accountability strings will end up imposing a one size fits all nationalized government mandated curriculum on private and religious providers, analogously to what is happening with the Common Core in K-12.

SF 481, authored by Senator Chuck Wiger (DFL – South St. Paul) was heard in the Senate Education Committee on March 11th.  HF 1058, authored by Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL – Golden Valley) is being heard today, March 14th at 4 PM in the House Early Childhood and Youth Development Committee.

The detailed written testimony submitted to both committees is available here.  The main points are as follows:

1) Mandated curriculum standards for early childhood that apply to private and religious programs that take subsidies that destroy parental autonomy regardless of one’s views. These standards are based on the Head Start national standards and are part of the Race to the Top efforts. They include gender identity, careers, environmentalism, and social activism

2) Childcare and preschool programs that accept scholarship recipients will be considered subsidized for the purposes of unionization, resulting in increased costs and decrease access for poor and middle class families analogously to what is happening under the Affordable Care Act.
3) Cost – The governor’s finance bill calls for a 733% increase in funding for these scholarships over current levels.  This bill’s funding for 2014 is a 1,300% increase and a 1,750% increase in 2015 in a bad economy.

4) Many large centers and Head Start programs receive automatic four star ratings putting small programs at a disadvantage.

5) Evaluations of Parent Aware and national research show there is no evidence that the required quality rating systems  improve child outcomes.

6) Scholarships incentivize poor parents to let someone else raise their kids.
7) Preschool does not work in the long-term and causes academic and emotional harm.

Although there are many issues facing the legislature, if you care about parental autonomy, conscience rights for providers, and fiscal responsibility, please consider calling your legislators and asking them to oppose this legislation or at least to provide conscientious objection to the curricular mandates.

Thank you!

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